TWIN FALLS — Everything was set for four College of Southern Idaho men’s basketball players to sign their letters of intent on Wednesday, until a spectator called out from the back of the room.
“Hey, you can’t have Utah and Utah State next to each other,” he joked.
After the adjustment of placards, Danya Kingsby, Charles Jones Jr., Roche Grootfaam and Tomas Domingos signed their letters of intent to play college basketball at the Division I level.
Kingsby signed with the University of Pittsburgh, Jones Jr. signed with the University of Utah, Grootfaam signed with Utah State University and Domingos signed with the University of Idaho.
For all four, competition played a big part in their decisions. Kingsby will go up against some of the best teams in the country as a point guard with Pittsburgh, which joined the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2013.
“I want to compete against the best, and I feel like playing in the ACC was the best fit for that,” the sophomore said.
Jones Jr., also a sophomore guard, will be joining a Utes team that was ranked last year in the top 15 nationally and played Pac-12 powers like UCLA, Arizona and Oregon. That was exactly what he was looking for.
“I want to go where I’m playing against the best competition every day, every night,” Jones Jr. said.
Sophomore power forward Grootfaam said his relationship with the Utah State coaches and the support of the community were big draws, but his trip to the campus blew him away.
“When I walked into the (Dee Glen Smith) Spectrum, there’s just something about it that gave me the chills,” he said, referring to the Aggies’ basketball arena. “I felt like where that’s where I wanted to play.”
Domingos, a freshman center, said that the Vandals kept in touch with him before he came to CSI.
“They’ve been following me for a long time,” he said. “They were actually the ones who talked to Coach (Jared) Phay about me coming here.”
But there are bigger reasons they chose their schools than basketball itself. Kingsby, who grew up in Milwaukee, will now only be six hours from, much closer than he was when he played high school ball in Jacksonville, Fla., or junior college ball in Twin Falls.
Jones Jr. said he knew his academic pursuits would be taken seriously at Utah.
“One thing that stood out to me was that every athlete who ever went there graduated, “ he said. “A 100 percent graduation rate.”
All four said that CSI pushed them to grow and to be able to take these opportunities.
“They prepared me physically, mentally, spiritually,” Groofaam said. “The way I’ve been coached and the way I’ve pushed through adversity will definitely help me.”
“CSI did everything for me,” Jones Jr. said. “I wouldn’t be where I’m at right now without CSI.”
Phay said watching his players sign is always rewarding because it shows their hard work has paid off, but it doesn’t get any easier watching his players leave the Golden Eagles after only a year or two.
“It’s tough, but you kind of know it going in,” he said. “You try to make as much of a difference in a year or two years.”
These players still have a full season ahead of them, one in which the Golden Eagles are ranked No. 10 nationally, so the work doesn’t stop now that they’ve signed.
“We’ve still got a national championship to get to,” Kingsby said.